Chocolate and Salted Caramel Brownies: Amazing Cakes #18

Whenever I take brownies to work they always go down really well. I get fed up of baking the same things over and over again and like to try new things, though.

When I was looking through Amazing Cakes From The Great British Bake Off and thinking what I’d like to make next, I found a brownie recipe in the Chocolate Chapter for Chocolate and Salted Caramel Brownies. I’ve made Salted Caramel Brownies before but have done it with a ready made jar of caramel sauce. I’ve never had the confidence to bake it myself. So I thought I’d have a go.

First, I had to make the salted caramel sauce. This was made by heating caster sugar and butter until it dissolved and melted then adding double cream to the pan. This was then brought to the boil and kept on a rolling boil until thickened. You had to stir the mixture constantly so that the caramel didn’t go grainy or stick to the bottom of the pan. It seemed to take absolutely ages to get to where I wanted it to be and then it looked more like fudge than caramel! When it was ready, I let it cool down while I made the main part of the brownies.

Compared to my regular brownie recipe, this recipe contains more chocolate. I used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate mainly because that was all I had in my cupboard. Lindt had had a special offer on their 100g bars in Morrisons so I bought two dark bars and two milk ones. Usually I only use one bar of one kind of chocolate and add in some little extras, such as chocolate chips or nuts. The rest of the ingredients were the same: brown sugar, eggs, plain flour, baking powder and butter. I didn’t use cocoa powder either.

As with all brownie recipes I always start by melting the chocolate and butter together. To the melted butter and chocolate I add the caster sugar and mix that in, followed by beaten eggs. I did not add any vanilla extract this time either. Finally, I folded in the flour and baking powder.

I spooned all the brownie mixture into a prepared loose bottomed square tin. The caramel was then spooned into the mixture and poked in so that it wasn’t just sitting on the top. It did look very pretty with its marble effect.

After half an hour’s baking the brownies were ready. I left them to cool down on the wire rack while I started making dinner.

Whenever I make brownies I find that I’m asked “Can I have one?” before I’ve even cut them up. This was no exception. I cut them up then made sure that I took four out for my family before boxing the rest up for work.

These were so yummy that I will make these again. I think I’ll cheat and use a ready made sauce if I’m short of time, though!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #13: Swiss Roll

I’ve been so behind with my blog posts recently. One day I’d like to have the time to write up about what I’ve made on the day it was actually made. Since we went into the second lockdown (though I can’t really call it that as I don’t think anything has closed where I live, except the pub and local cafes!) I’ve been working virtually full time and haven’t had much time for baking over the last couple of weeks. On the day after Boris’ announcement, it was business as usual for us at home. Loads of jobs to catch up on and a nice Sunday roast to cook, followed by some sort of dessert or cake for pudding.

I was looking through my Amazing Cakes From The Great British Bake Off book and was thinking what would make a great pudding. I thought about a Swiss Roll as I can’t believe I’ve never made one before. They look so fiddly and awkward to handle that I’ve thought I can’t be bothered with all that effort.

This recipe for a Swiss Roll is a quick bake and is made in just ten minutes. As a whisked and fatless sponge it doesn’t last long but then again anything with cream inside never lasts long in our house!

I didn’t have a special Swiss Roll tin for the bake but I used a shallow baking tray which usually ends up being my roast potato baking tray as it was the same size. I lined it carefully with some baking paper. You need quite a bit of baking paper for this bake as you need an extra piece to help you roll up the Swiss Roll when it has baked.

I got started on the sponge part just before lunchtime on the Sunday after I had waded through a huge pile of ironing. A baking session with music playing in the background is always my spur to get the chores done. To begin with, I whisked eggs and sugar together until the mixture was thick and like a mousse. It took a while to get the ribbon trail hanging down from the whisk!

I used the spare sheet of baking paper to sift the flour and salt on it. I then took half of the flour off it and folded it into the whisked egg mixture with a large metal spoon. Then I added the other half of the flour and did the same.

The mixture was then poured into the prepared tin. I had pre-heated my oven to 200oC fan which seemed very high but that was what the recipe stated. I was meant to put the sponge in for 9-10 minutes but after 8 minutes it looked burnt and was coming away from the sides of the tin. I hope it wasn’t because the oven was too hot!

Feeling disappointed and deflated, I sprinkled caster sugar onto the spare baking sheet and then turned the sponge onto it. Hoping the caster sugar would cover up the mistakes and any cracks, I was careful to roll it up until it was completely cool.

I was thinking about what filling to put in the Swiss Roll and thought ooh great I’ve got some lemon curd! I didn’t realise that there wasn’t enough to spread on even half of the roll. Same with some blackberry jam. In the end it became a hybrid lemon-blackberry combo with far more whipped cream than jam.

I know when I bake sometimes things do look like the pictures in the recipe book but the same can’t be said of this recipe! I couldn’t see any jam when I rolled up the Swiss Roll. All I could see was the cream and it didn’t look that pretty. This was a true case of it tastes better than it looks!

The Swiss Roll was ready before I had even started on the roast chicken dinner we were planning on eating. I felt hungry and ended up cutting off a piece to eat. It tasted lovely and definitely not burnt!

Next time I make a Swiss Roll I’ll check if the oven temperature really should be 200oC even for a fan oven or maybe I’ll reduce the baking time. It was true that the cake should have been eaten on the day it was made, we had all had a piece but the following day it tasted stale.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

My Favourite Brownie Recipe

I just love baking brownies and they’re one of the first things to go when I have a stall.  Not that I’ve done many stalls recently.  My family love my brownies and they’re always popular when I’ve taken them into schools where I teach in the past.  I still laugh my head off from the marriage proposal I got once from a man who bought a pack of my brownies from my stall.  He came back about half an hour later having eaten the brownies, bought another pack and asked if he could marry me!  Sorry, but I’m already taken!

Anyway, it’s always fun baking brownies and I bake loads of different versions.  My most popular varieties are the plain ones, my Maya Gold ones and the Oreo cookie ones.  I experimented with using Green and Blacks Maya Gold chocolate in them a couple of years back and loved the taste.  I now have a baby niece called Maya so one day maybe I can teach Maya to bake them!  The Oreo cookie ones are so naughty but nice as well, though.

SmartCookieSam’s Favourite Brownies

100g  good quality chocolate of your choice

150g unsalted butter

125g plain flour

15g cocoa powder

300g soft light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 large, free range eggs

100g chopped nuts/ chocolate chips/ dried fruit, Oreo cookie pieces/ Smarties or similar.

This recipe is so adaptable.  For instance if you want to have mint brownies, use a good quality bar of mint chocolate.  I recommend Lindt Intense or one similar where the mint flavour comes from crispy bits, not fondant like an After Eight Mint.  Instead of vanilla extract, use a good quality peppermint extract. Just remember to keep the quantities the same.  Let your imagination run wild!

Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350oF/ Gas 4.  Grease and line the base of a loose bottom square baking tin (mine is about 8″ square). I swear by Wilton Cake Release available from Lakeland to help here!

Break up the chocolate into squares and add the butter in cubes. Melt the butter and chocolate over a saucepan of barely simmering water or if you prefer use the microwave.  I must admit I use the microwave. I put the chocolate to melt for 1 minute, then take it out, stir it and put it back in for 10 second intervals. Works for me.

Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and then sieve the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder and salt into another mixing bowl.

In yet another mixing bowl, beat the eggs and add the brown sugar in, along with the vanilla extract.  Stir the ingredients together but until they are just combined. Make sure there isn’t any flour visible.

Finally, fold in the melted chocolate along with any additional ingredients, such as Oreo cookies.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes.  Brownies should be chewy and gooey inside, so don’t overbake them.

Let the brownies cool in the tin before you cut them into squares.  I usually get 16 squares from a batch.  Now try to keep them from being scoffed all at once!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Carrot and Apple Cake with a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.

You can’t beat a good carrot cake can you? Well maybe there are lots of other favourite cakes out there but I can’t resist carrot cake.  I’ve baked lots of them over the years and tried different recipes.

I’ve been enjoying testing out a few recipes from Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake” recently.  Our neighbouring village had it’s Spring Festival a couple of weekends ago and I always like to donate a cake or few to the cafe that the PTA run in the primary school hall.  As my son went to that school a few years back I always like to support it as he had such a happy time there.

Carrot Cakes always seem to be popular with lots of people and this one from Lorraine Pascale was no exception. This version contains not only grated carrots but also some grated apple.  This works extremely well with carrot and adds some natural sweetness. To add maple syrup to the cream cheese frosting was also a delicious touch which worked really well.

On the Saturday morning, the day before the Spring Festival I got up really early.  It had been a crazy busy week working full time teaching a Reception class in a local school and I was due to be there another week afterwards.   The night before I had gone off to bed at 9.30pm absolutely exhausted and laid there thinking would I have time to get everything done over the weekend? Thank heavens it was a Bank Holiday that weekend. I was up at 6am and was already baking.  I had to be at my beauty therapist friend’s house for my appointment at 10am and I had to have a headstart.  I find if I get up early without distractions then I get loads done.

I was so grateful to the grating attachment on my new food processor to help me out with grating the carrots and the apple.  I don’t mind grating by hand but I was in a rush and getting a machine to do the hard work really helped to cut the time down.  The carrots and apple came out a little bit chunkier than I would have liked but it did add to the texture of the cake.  In other carrot cakes I’ve added walnuts or pecan nuts but this one doesn’t contain nuts at all. It doesn’t have any dried fruit in either, like raisins or sultanas.

The recipe itself is simple to put together as all the ingredients are weighed out and put into one bowl.  This includes using vegetable oil as the fat instead of butter as is traditionally seen in a carrot cake or a muffin mixture.  Along with this was some light brown soft sugar, eggs, the apple and carrot, some self raising flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon and some vanilla extract.

When all the batter had been mixed together it was divided between two greased and lined circular loose bottomed sandwich tins. The cakes were then baked in my oven for about 30-35 minutes at around 160oC in my fan oven. While they were baking I went upstairs, sorted out some washing, put some washing away and tried to get my son’s uniform ironed for work. All while I kept an eye and an ear out for the oven timer.

Half an hour or so later the cakes were ready and out of the oven.  I left them to cool in their tins on the work top on top of a wire rack and headed down to see my friend to get my nails done.

In the afternoon I got round to decorating the carrot cake.  The frosting was a traditional cream cheese one but with the addition of maple syrup. Maple syrup goes beautifully with carrot cake and I was happy I had just enough in the cupboard from pancake day.  I’m not the neatest cake decorator and to be honest I found it really tricky to keep my frosting neat. My mum was standing next to me watching me ice it and she got her fork out and fluffed up the icing.  This wasn’t the original way I wanted to decorate the cake with neat, smooth edges but the more I tried to smooth the icing the more it wanted to fall off!  To finish off I used a dozen sugar carrots bought from a pack found in the supermarket a few weeks back.

The following morning I dropped all three cakes baked down at the school.  They were gratefully received and to help the servers in the cafe I pre-cut the cakes for them.  When my mum and I went back down to the festival a couple of hours later I noticed that the carrot cake had completely gone. It had sold out.  That made me so happy.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Blooming Brownies from Lorraine Pascale’s “A Lighter Way To Bake”

I have always been a huge fan of Lorraine Pascale ever since I first saw her TV series “Baking Made Easy” a couple of years back.  Since then I have bought her books and enjoyed making her no-fuss, yet utterly delicious recipes.  We love both her savoury and sweet recipes and can’t get enough of them.

So a couple of months back I was excited to hear that Lorraine was bringing out another baking book and it would be featuring “favourites that you could enjoy everyday”, in other words it would be a baking book that features our best loved classics but made a bit lighter so we can enjoy them without feeling that we are being naughty.  As a serial dieter who manages to lose a few pounds and then promptly puts them back on again, I thought this book sounded like a great idea.  I will be reviewing the book in the next week or so, so watch this space!

The front cover of Lorraine Pascale's fab new book "A Lighter Way To Bake".
The front cover of Lorraine Pascale’s fab new book “A Lighter Way To Bake”.

Of course this does not mean you can trough the whole plate of brownies or cookies- far from it. It just means you can enjoy one and it is a little bit better for you than a standard bake.  I absolutley detest shop bought “low-fat” type cakes and biscuits.  They taste awful, are usually packed with extra sugar and other rubbish to compensate for the lack of fat and are usually so sickly sweet you are left with a huge headache after eating them.  I would rather have something small and home-made instead.

So, last Sunday afternoon for our usual Sunday lunch pudding I decided to put one of Lorraine’s “Lighter Bake” recipes to the test.  I chose to go for the “Blooming Brownies” on page 164.

Lorraine says in the recipe introduction that “the outcome is a much lighter brownie, with a slightly more cakey taste, but it’s still the right sort of naughtiness to feel that you are getting a tasty treat,”

Here’s how I made the Blooming Brownies.  I made mine into a Mint Chocolate version as I had a bar of Lindt Chocolate Mint Intense in my cupboard and no plain chocolate left.

First butter was melted in a small pan over medium heat.
First butter was melted in a small pan over medium heat.
I used a bar of Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense pg of good quality milk chocolate. This one was from Waitrose.
I used a bar of Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense pg of good quality milk chocolate. This one was from Waitrose.
Once the butter had melted and was taken off the heat, I added in the chunks of chocolate.  These melted from the heat of the hot butter.
Once the butter had melted and was taken off the heat, I added in the chunks of chocolate. These melted from the heat of the hot butter.
Three whole eggs plus two extra egg whites were whisked with my hand held electric mixer. Sugar was added bit by bit and mixed in carefully.
Three whole eggs plus two extra egg whites were whisked with my hand held electric mixer. Sugar was added bit by bit and mixed in carefully.
Here's the melted chocolate- gorgeous!
Here’s the melted chocolate- gorgeous!
The wet ingredients were then folded in with  some wholemeal flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda.
The wet ingredients were then folded in with some wholemeal flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda.
The mixture was poured into a well greased and lined loose bottomed square tin.
The mixture was poured into a well greased and lined loose bottomed square tin.
The brownies were baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
The brownies were baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
The brownies were cut up into 16 squares. I dusted them with a small sprinkling of icing sugar.
The brownies were cut up into 16 squares. I dusted them with a small sprinkling of icing sugar.
The leftovers were put into an airtight container to go into the freezer though my son did take a couple before they got put in there!
The leftovers were put into an airtight container to go into the freezer though my son did take a couple before they got put in there!

So, the verdict?  Lighter Bake Brownies versus my own “standard” ones?  Lorraine compares her lighter version with another recipe she has in Baking Made Easy for her Oreo Cookie Crumble Brownies.  These have been a massive hit when we have made them in our house before.  My own brownie recipe I use uses much more sugar but less eggs, more butter, less chocolate and less cocoa powder but more flour. The result is definitely more fudgy and chewy.  Lorraine was absolutely right in saying that these are more “cakey” but this did not put me off. In fact it was great to have the delicious chocolate hit without the over powering sweetness or the artificial “low fat” shop bought taste.  The rest of my family loved the brownies too and couldn’t tell the difference.  I thought one square at 165 calories was great, you could indulge without feeling “naughty”.  I had to hide the rest though!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx